Israelis to the Brits: Let in the Light, but not Too Much

By Barbara Horwitz-Bennett February 11, 2005

Editor’s note: Check out the February edition of CSE, which focuses on airports, including Israel’s new Terminal 3 project at Ben Gurion Airport. Following is a story regarding the use of natural lighting at the facility. And don’t forget to check out the March edition of CSE, which delves deeper into the technical ins and outs of daylighting.

With the proliferation of the LEED program—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—daylighting has become a major part of many buildings, and airport terminals are no exception. Of course, daylighting has long been practiced in Europe, but members of Arup, one of many designers working on the new Terminal 3 project at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, discovered that cultural practices don’t always translate overseas.

Specifically, when it came to the lighting design for the facility’s landside terminal, Andy Sedgwick of Arup’s London office was surprised to find that while the harvesting of natural daylight in Northern Europe is in great demand, natural light is not always such a welcome thing in Israel.

“It was quite an enlightenment for me to find that the visual environment can be uncomfortable for Israelis if it’s too bright,” he reflects.

At the same time, some connection to the outside was desired, so one tactic Sedgwick employed was designing for a long, linear colored limestone wall at the back of the check-in hall to be washed with natural sunlight. “This way there’s a visual link to the outside, and it’s bright enough for reading a ticket and for security purposes, but not excessively bright,” he explains.

In addition, Arup’s engineers designed a slot in the floor of the ticketing hall in order to bring this same light to the arrival hall on the next level down.

According to one of Sedgwick’s colleagues, Ashok Raiji, P.E., a mechanical engineer with Arup’s New York office, even though the three roadways leading into the landside terminal were set back through the use of bridges (for security purposes), a certain amount of daylight is still obstructed by the roadways. Consequently, the additional sunlight bathing the back wall is very helpful in illuminating the space.

Of course, high lighting levels were specified for security-sensitive spaces—for example, specially designed areas where security staff personally question all travelers prior to check-in, a long-established security procedure unique to Israel.

Another tool Sedgwick’s lighting team utilized was radiance modeling, a complicated software program. “It was a good tool to explain to other people what the lighting was expected to achieve,” he says.

While commuters are still getting used to the dramatically changed terminal, the feedback thus far has been quite positive. But considering the manpower and shekels invested in replacing the original 1937 facility built by the British, this should come as no surprise.